Project Long Travel SCU

Building a Long Travel Sand Car

Aug. 01, 2006 By Mike Lyon in conjunction with Sand Cars Unlimited, join together to create Project Long Travel SCU. We will bring you a multi-part series on the entire build ranging from frame design to long term results. Each month we will discuss certain features of the project with in-depth details and explosive pictures. Since this is the beginning of the project we will focus mainly on the chassis and suspension. 

After many months of research we decided to have Don Sliwinski at Sand Cars Unlimited build us our car. Don has been in business for over 30 years. At age 10 Don started to modify and built motorcycles. In 1975 he got a job at Sand Toys as a builder/fabricator making standard travel, VW powered cars .In 1989 he decided to branch out on his own and opened Sand Cars Unlimited located in Anaheim, CA and is still there today. Since then he has built hundreds of cars from standard travel to full blown desert race cars. Currently Don offers two 4-seat chassis designs, the little brother and the big brother. The main difference between the two is the Big Brother car is 4" wider and 3" longer than the littler brother.

Beginning of the frame-front Beginning of the frame-Rear
2nd week of the build Rear end with mock-up transmission
Front -still needs more cross bracing Rear-nearly complete

One of his recent customers helped Don design a 2-seat long travel car. We looked over every detail of this car, got a good ride in it and we were sold! We ordered a rolling chassis and decided to save some money by doing the finish work ourselves. The car will be a 2-seat Big Brother car with 123" wheel base. It will be less than 90" wide in the front and 94" with 10" wide rims in the rear with an overall length of 15' 3". For suspension travel Don claims about 20 inches of travel at all 4 corners. He says in his 2-seat design he is able to move the upper rear shock mount a few inches forward than on his 4-seat design. Don says this will add more travel. We will measure the travel once we start assembling the car. This will be the third 2-seat Big Brother car Don has built.

 The frame mainly consists of 1.5"diameter chromoly tubing with a .120 wall thickness and will have plenty of bracing for a solid design. It starts off with tubing bender, a notcher, and an idea. Don's team of master fabricators begins the process by making a jig to allow for the 123" wheel base. The next step is to make the upper and lower main frame rails. Once these are made the frame rails are connected together with more tubing in various locations to make the frame as strong as it can be. A roof and the final bracing are added and the frame is then sent to Emil Miller Fabrications for the aluminum body to be made.

3rd week of the build Rear roof support and radiator.
Front roof support Rear trailing arms

Most of Don's cars come with side panels, a half hood and a roof. We decided we wanted a fully enclosed body with a curved windshield. We asked for a raised 'V' shape in the hood rather than a flat hood. It looks fantastic and has a vent in the front to allow some air flow into the car. For the windshield they made the entire assembly into a one piece design. They welded the dash, windshield frame and a small section of the roof together. Looking at it from the outside you can't tell these parts were welded together.

The body is a work of art! Amazing craftsmanship on the hood
Rear end with a built in fire wall Wing trunk

Simply amazing what these guys can do! In the rear of the car we had them add an enclosed area; just behind where the seats will be (this was not fully complete when pictures were taken). The top of it has 2 compartment doors to allow access to the gas tank, battery, cooler, and a tool bag. For a wing trunk we had them build an enclosure around the radiator (radiator pictured is for mock up only) that featured a built in wing trunk. Having the trunk in this area rather than at the very end of the car gives a cleaner look and better access to the motor. Emil and his staff are master aluminum craftsman! The work they did is simply amazing!

Dash and windshield area Storage compartment doors

Once the body work was finished, the car went back to Sand Cars unlimited for finish work. The frame had to be fully welded as some tubing was only tack-welded to allow for easy fabrication of the body. Nerf bars, foot rests and passenger grab handles had to be welded in. Front a-arms and rear trailing arms needed finishing touches as well as shock mounts fabricated. We asked Don to install a few more tubes and a full floor along with skid plates. Once it was finished it was finally time for us to pick-up our new project and begin the build process. While the whole process only took a couple months it seemed like an eternity! The anticipation of waiting for a new toy caused many sleepless nights! All we could think about was the car and how great this upcoming dune season was going to be!!

Over looking where King Shocks are madeFor suspension we used one of the industry leaders, King Racing Shocks. In the early 80's Lance King worked for Kuster Company building and designing shocks. Then in 1995 he started King Shocks which is currently located in Garden Grove, CA. Lance's first product was 3.0 by-pass shocks for race trucks. Since then Lance and son Brett have branched out to many different models of shocks. Through decades of research and development King has become the industry leader in shock technology. They make many types of shocks for applications such as Rhino and Jeep shocks to sand car and trophy truck shocks. What ever your need is for shocks, King has you covered! 

All parts of King's shocks are made and assembled in America. Each set of shocks are custom built for each application to offer the perfect ride. Some of the shock features include:

  1. Precision honed cylinders. Each is precisely honed to a +/- .001  tolerance.
  2. Rod ends are made from 7075 cold drawn aircraft aluminum for maximum strength under heavy loads.
  3. Each shock shaft is made of high carbon steel that has been induction hardened.
  4. Shock pistons are surrounded by a Teflon coated brass wear band.
  5. Stainless valve shims are used so that valving does not loose strength as temperatures increase.
  6. Reservoirs are made from hard coated aluminum to save weight and offer good heat dissipation.
  7. Spherical bearings are Teflon lined stainless steel for long life.

We contacted Brett King to discuss our options. We wanted this car to be able to be driven hard and offer a smooth ride. He suggested going with Don's standard 8 shock car package which consist of  2.0 coil over and bypass shocks in the front and 2.5's in the rear.

More of King's assembly area Final assembly

The dual rate coil over shocks we are using do not have the reservoir. They basically act as a spring carrier. The bypass shocks will do most of the work in our application. King uses 3/4" by-pass tubes that extend from the shock body and allow for maximized flow and control. By-pass shocks give the best of both worlds by allowing the shock to work well while at full compression and still offer a smooth ride at normal ride height. Each by-pass tube is easily adjustable by the customer. It is very handy to be able to dial in the shocks while at the dunes!

Our car is going to be mostly silver with red highlights. When we ordered shocks from Brett, we asked about changing the normal blue colors of the various shock parts to red. We were told it would costs about $75 extra per shock. We decided we'd pay a little extra to have them match the rest of the colors on the car. This is a rather expensive option due to King having all of their parts pre-made in their signature blue color. If you decided on a different color the anodizing must be properly stripped off, then it must be highly polished and re-anodized. Due to the polishing in this process, these parts actually look shinier than their standard blue. When we saw them for the first time we were very impressed with the way they turned out!

Coil Over shock end Upper by-pass shock mount
By-pass reservoir By-pass shock seal and adjustment

Now that we have most of our parts we will begin the build process! We will be locked up in the garage day and night trying to get this ready for our 1st ride sometime in October. Next month we will highlight the drive train, stay tuned!

Sand Cars Unlimited
Don Sliwinski

King Shocks
Brett King

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